Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Age Old Problem Of Music

The recorded music industry has finally stabilised and it is competing with free. Whatever arguments are put forward for recorded music to go behind paywalls, the world we live in demands that music be free. Piracy of music is no more.

Why would people bother?

My kids are happy with free and putting up with a few commercials. I am happy with it as well, and on the occasions that some of my favourite artists release an album that has a super deluxe edition, I purchase it.

All of this low price points does lead to a mathematical outcome. Profits are tighter, which in turn means  large recording budgets go down. Who cares, right? With pro-studio equipment so cheap, 95% of musicians are DIY’ers’

But, are profits really tighter for the record labels. The whole Spotify/Sony contract highlights just how much money Sony is getting from being the holders of so many copyrights. Sony’s negotiating power is strong because of the artists that create musical works.

Unions have negotiating power because they have the workers behind them. Sony has negotiating power because they have accumulated the copyrights from artists that signed contracts with terms stacked against them. The unions fight for workers’ rights and better wages. Sony fights for a higher fee to their music catalogue and then fails to pass on the monies to its artists, both old and new.

The power of the labels has been accumulated by paying low dollars for a song. Take “Louie, Louie”. The song was written on toilet paper in 1955, recorded in 1957 as a B side and it did nothing. In 1959, Berry sold the rights to the song for $750. In 1963, the song became a hit. By 1987, Berry was living on welfare at his mother’s house. However, Berry did have some luck in a lawyer friend who managed to get his rights back just in time for the song to be licensed to an alcoholic drink commercial. Berry in this instance is part of the rare 1% that do have some luck. For the other 99%, no dice.

You know what the funny thing is, someone like Frank Zappa back in the early Eighties had the foresight to offer a proposal to the record labels to replace the LP model. Zappa proposed that the labels should store their recorded music vaults in a central location and offer the music via phone or cable TV straight to the user stereos via a subscription model. In Zappa’s words “providing material in such quantity at a reduced cost could actually diminish the desire to duplicate and store it, since it will be available any time day or night.”

The reason why Zappa was thinking outside the square back in 1982 was that the recording business was already in a state of bother, that the Internet and Napster brought to the forefront, 20 years later.

Change is constant. News used to be slow, we had three TV channels, music, books and films had gated/window releases, fewer people travelled and fewer people finished school. Not anymore.

You see, change for one side of the debate is always better and for the other side not so much. For the music consumer, the shift to access models over ownership models with lower price points is for the better. But it is far from perfect for the record labels and other gatekeepers. Even old school artists don’t like these changes. People have argued that it has led to unemployment or that creators have no incentive to create new music.

The age-old problem of music was always access. How do people hear it?

MTV broke down a lot of those access problems and made musicians into global superstars. MTV, P2P downloading and streaming are new approaches to age-old problems. While the record labels ignored the volcanic ash of Napster, the techies escaped the volcano blast and thrived.

The error of the record labels was in believing that what was familiar would not change. They got used to the high profit margins of the CD, so they found it hard to believe that in the space of a few years, those profits could disappear. Those marketing strategies and gated releases that have proven themselves over so many years, no longer bring in the sales the labels wanted. Instead it leads to an increase in P2P downloading.

Streaming has competed with P2P. Spotify has pumped millions upon millions into the recording industry. Money that was not there before. So what do the record labels, along with Apple and other misguided artists supporting Pono or Tidal want to do. Their solution to the age-old problem of access is to put it behind a pay wall.

Nice one. Let’s see how well that goes down.

A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Hard Working Musicians and Some Not So Hard Working Musicians

When I sit down to write a song, I write a song. That means, I have a vocal melody, chords and a certain feel behind it. In the bands I used to be in, I would then play the song for them. Now, my vocals are limited, so when I play the original song there are some notes I cannot hit. However the singer in the band can hit those notes.

Now according to Sebastian Bach, because he can sing better than Matt Fallon, he should get a song writing credit.

Come on man, this sense of entitlement that everyone has is getting downright stupid.

I love the Sebastian Bach era of Skid Row and I love Sebastian’s solo stuff. I saw Skid Row play at Eastern Creek in Sydney back in 1993. I purchased their debut album because I saw that Michael Wagener was listed as the producer. I remember dropping the needle and being blown away.

I remember also picking up a bootleg of the Matt Fallon era of Skid Row and being amazed at how good the songs sounded in demo form. Of course, Sebastian Bach is the better singer and he is the difference between a good band and a great band. Plus he is Skid Row. As good as Dave Sabo and Rachel Bolan are at writing the songs, people will always associate their band with Sebastian Bach.

But, in the case of getting a song writing credit just because he sang the vocal melody better, Sebastian has it wrong.

The Skid Row guys know the truth. History has always shown people trying to rewrite the past to suit a current point of view. But seriously, based on Sebastian’s definition, then guitarist Scotti Hill should also be credited as a songwriter for the Skid Row debut. Why not, hey?

Hill’s lead playing is all over the album and in “18 and Life”, the lead work is very definitive. But it doesn’t work that way. It never did, however in the new world we live in with plagiarism lawsuits everywhere, anything is possible.

Another person that keeps on getting it wrong is Yngwie Malmsteen. When is he going to realise that as good as a guitarist he is, without a great lead singer, his band and his songs are just average. Joe Lynn Turner and Jeff Scott Soto are the right vocalists for Yngwie however those bridges have burnt.

The problem with Yngwie and other artists like Kiss, is that they haven’t created anything worthwhile recently that would make us pay attention. So no one is interested in obtaining their new music. In Kiss’s case, they can still make good money on the road. In Yngwie’s case, he is playing clubs and bars.

You see, in music you work your ass off to get a break and to build an audience. Then you need to work even harder to keep that audience and to replenish it. The big dirty secret that eludes artists is that fans drop off, lose interest or just move on to other bands or different styles especially if the music coming out fails to connect.

If you want to listen to Malmsteen at his best, the first four albums are essential listening. Anything after that is for the hard-core fans.

These days it seems that the popular artists forget why they became famous. It’s because of the music, stupid. It amazes me when I read interviews with artists who don’t feel it is necessary to make new music. The latest is Paul Stanley. The reason why he is a somebody, is because he wrote music. And a lot of it.

Look at guys like Mark Tremonti or even Joel Hoekstra. Both guys are super hard workers.

Tremonti has two albums coming out within a 12 month period from his band Tremonti, plus another Alter Bridge album. Chuck into that mix the Fret 12 guitar instructional DVD’s that he has been doing for the last 10 years and you can see how hard he is working at releasing content on a consistent basis.

Hoekstra just released “The Purple Album” with Whitesnake, has a project called VHF that will be releasing an album soon and another project called Joel Hoekstra 13 that will also be releasing an album soon. In addition to that, he released music with Night Ranger just last year and toured with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. All of that hard work is paying off for him at the moment.

So what do we know?

It’s hard work being a musician. It always has been and it always will be. Tremonti and Hoekstra are perfect examples of hard work.

Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Certifications, Recorded Music and That Spotify/Sony Contract

I always have a decent laugh when I read music news. It’s always interesting to see how a news item gets copied across from website to website in my Google Alerts with no changes and no critical analysis.

Remember back in the day when all the rage was about how artists are struggling to achieve platinum certifications. All the commentary focused on the moment or within a 12 month period. It was like a platinum certification was the be all and end all.

Now, back in the Eighties, MTV made every act that got rotation into a platinum act. But that was not always the case.

“Ride The Lightning” was released in 1984 and it is my favourite Metallica album. It took five years to achieve a platinum certification. 28 years later, “Ride The Lightning” was certified 6x Platinum. Music simmers away and it just keeps on connecting. It’s not about corporate deals, or mega marketing campaigns. Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning” album is proof. It competed with piracy and it still sold.

Anyway, the RIAA recently re-classed a “sale unit” to be a paid download or 100 audio/visual streams. Based on this new re-classification, did you know that Shinedown’s “Second Chance” was just certified triple platinum?

Not bad for a song that is 7 years old.

So what does this say about recorded music?

If a song connects with an audience, expect it to sell and be streamed. The facts are out there. It doesn’t happen overnight or in a year. In happens over decades.

“Second Chance” on YouTube has 9,766,633 views on the official Atlantic Records channel. Another YouTube user called “McDrinkable” has a lyric video up of the song and it has 2,749,110 views, while another unofficial YouTube user called “Dushan Galappaththi” also has their own lyric video and they have 957,103 views.

“Second Chance” on Spotify has 21,845,406 streams.

So what do we know?

We know that music is not about the instant payola. Great music that connects with an audience will be listened too and purchased for a long time.

The beauty of Shinedown is that a song that wasn’t a single has more streams than the hit radio songs. That song is “Call Me”.

But the record labels still push an agenda that piracy is killing their business, while they make millions upon millions in licence fees from the streaming music services.

If you don’t believe me, read this article on “The Verge”. The advances paid to the record labels do not filter back to the artists at all. But hang on a sec, the record labels have this power to negotiate with the techies because of the artists. And the artists get nothing in return. That, my friends is the recording business.

Which leads me to the dumb journalists and artists that rallied behind artists who spoke out against streaming services. Let me say it again, the streaming services are not the enemy here. The record labels still are.

Looks like Roger Waters never got the memo. Even APRA’s Brett Cottle doesn’t get it. He wants the government to fight against pirates, however it is the labels that are holding back royalties.

Times are a changing people, but the record labels refuse to change.


A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy

When Did Music Become About “Keeping Your Eye On The Money”?

Starting a band or trying to forge a career in the music industry is difficult. We all know that we have to start somewhere. I had no expectations of MTV stardom, fame and riches. For me music is a need to create something. I like to draw, write music, write lyrics, write short stories, take photos and so on. So I was never deluded that just because I started on a path in the music business that I deserved to be successful.

It’s funny when I think back, but when I started out with bands, the main talking point was distribution.

How do we make our music available?

Today I shake my head that all the talk is about money, streaming royalties, etc.

Now that the distribution problem has been solved, everyone believes that if they write a song and put it out on all the platforms, they should be a star. Guess they don’t know that 20 million songs on Spotify have never been heard.

Thinking about getting paid from the start is wrong. In music, you get ripped off a lot of times before you make any money, provided that you are still around to capitalise. Which doesn’t always happen, as people need to get a full-time job to support their life choices.

Gettin’ ripped off
Gettin’ sold
Second hand
That’s how it goes
Playin’ in a band

Then arguments come about like; “our music is ten times better than the crap on the Top 40”. Artists forrget that the most important thing is to have a track and an online presence.

Once you start talking about the Top 40 at band practice or to your peers, then you need to make music like the Top 40 and that means you need to get onto radio and all of the other old school distribution outlets.

Of course there are outliers; bands or artists that don’t make Top 40 music, however they have the songs, the charisma and the movement of a whole scene behind them, that ends up gaining traction and penetrates the Top 40.

These kind of artists have been off the grid for that long, they have figured out their act, built their fan base and have the experience on the board. You see when you are an outlier from the Top 40, you are constantly building up your fan base and gaining traction a little bit at a time. Your selling your merchandise. You are constantly releasing new songs as your fans demand it. You get your fans to invest in you. You are selling thousands of tickets to your shows.

A listener is someone who hears a song and then moves on the next one. A fan is someone who presses repeat over and over again after hearing your song. A listener will not invest in you, however a fan will, when they feel like it.

Remember, that music is a business and everyone wants to make money. So they look to the artists who can make them some money. And that is the problem the artists have. The majority of artists don’t really know what they are worth and when you add all of the competition they face to get a listener’s attention, the first thing that gets reduced is the value an artist places on themselves.

One more thing.

An artist could have all of the above, but that doesn’t mean that they are rich. All of those years of hard work means that the artist is still stuck at the starting line. The hard work begins when the artist crosses that line of being a nobody to being a somebody that some people have heard of.

That one last step to success is a giant chasm that is never crossed for many.

The music an artist creates is still the key, the doorway into their career. Good is no longer good enough. It’s always been about the best songs.

I dare anyone to name me all of the tracks on “Theatre of Pain” from Motley Crue or all of the tracks on the “The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell” albums from Five Finger Death Punch or all of the tracks on the “House Of Gold and Bones” albums from Stone Sour or all of the tracks from “Super Collider” or “Endgame” or “Th1rt3en” from Megadeth. As much as we are fans of those bands, we still want the best from them.

Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Lies Of The Recording Industry

Money in the recording business is getting more and more each year. Warner Music Group has seen streaming income overtake downloads.

While Spotify is struggling to turn a profit from streaming, the labels are not. The free ad-supported tiers of streaming still make the labels money. The paid subscriptions model will also grow as IT companies are all about scale. This is what WMG CEO Stephen Cooper had to say and to me it is an important quote;

“The rate of this growth has made it abundantly clear to us that in years to come, streaming will be the way that most people enjoy music. Not only that, we are also confident that streaming’s ongoing expansion will return the industry to sustainable, long-term growth.”

Of course the main issue here is how are those streaming monies being filtered down to the creators.

The labels have large market power to negotiate because they have accumulated a lot of copyrights over the last 40 years. However the same artists that created those works get sweet f.a. The reason behind that is that the artist has sold or signed away their copyrights to the record labels for a fee. This normally happens before a song is popular, so the fee and the percentages the artists agree to are not representative of the market power that song might have in the future. Of course years later, the artist can re-negotiate their terms however the contracts are still stacked in the labels favour.

Even Universal Music who is pushing for no “free-tier” streaming service has seen substantial growth from streaming monies vs download and physical sales. Seriously, piracy equals zero revenue whereas streaming regardless of free/subscription offers a revenue stream. The more listeners these services get, the more income the labels get.

But the labels are greedy. If they reduce their music license fees, the streaming services can then reduce their monthly fees and more people will subscribe.

My kids love Spotify. They have grown up with it. For them, there is nothing else. Of course they don’t mind getting nostalgic with me and from time to time they ask me to play some vinyl or a CD. My kids also love Apple products so when I told them that Apple is trying to shut down the free-tier on Spotify and on YouTube, the first thing they said to me is “THAT’S DUMB”.

The public likes to be legal however we also want the legal alternative to give us what we want conveniently and for a low price. And finally in music we started going in that direction. Then came the “EXCLUSIVES”.

Suddenly, fans of music couldn’t hear everything on for the price they pay. And the end result is always piracy. People will pay for music again however it will be a long process. The label execs only think about the NOW. They are not interested in the long-term.

Back in the Eighties, not everybody paid. The recording business was challenged. We listened to the radio and we dubbed cassettes from already dubbed cassettes. We watched MTV. Eventually, people started to pay for music and the recording business grew exponentially. Greed set in and then a grenade went off in 1999.

Remember Napster. It showed the recording industry that the majority of music fans favoured access over ownership. A compressed file was deemed worthy by billions of people around the world. While the recording industry fought tooth and nail to go back to the old ways, technology companies managed to drag them kicking and screaming into a new way. Here we are 16 years later and access to music is a legitimate business.

But the recording industry want’s to ruin it all again.

A to Z of Making It, Music, Stupidity

The Studio Environment

You see from my experiences, the studio is the arena that more or less breaks a band. Four bands that I have been involved with, have broken up from the damage caused to each other due to being in a studio environment.

Let’s begin with my favourite first; the way the drummer in the band recorded his drum tracks.

This always happened by me recording a scratch guitar track to a metronome/click track. The reason why I had to do it that way was that the drummer would always be out with the click track if I had to play along with him in real-time.

I’m not fussed either way however by the time I had to record the scratch guitar tracks a few other little events happened early on in the process.

You see when you go in the studio it is ideal to freshen up your gear. What I mean by that is new skins and sticks if you are a drummer, new strings on the guitars/bass and so on.

So when the drummer turns up with beat up skins (because he couldn’t afford new skins) and the drum kit than sounds like a cardboard box miked up, its “Houston, we have a problem”. This in turn leads to a  band meeting. There is resentment there already towards the drummer from the other band members. The final decision is that we end up hiring a professional kit for a fee. The drummer is now upset with everyone and at the engineer as he believes it is a conspiracy against him. We are now upset with the drummer for making us stretch the recording budget to hire a drum kit which means less time for mixing.

Another golden rule for me is to ensure that each member is well rehearsed.

So while that fast 16th note double kick pattern might sound okay in a live setting, when you put the click track microscope to it, you start to see that the drummer really didn’t practice it on his own and it sounds “out” and sloppy against the click track. This in turn leads to another band meeting with some baggage in tow. The drummer now has had about 20 takes on a 30 second double kick section and he hasn’t nailed either one. We have spent money and no product is being produced. The band meeting decides that we cannot afford to keep stuffing around on this one song so a decision is made to can the song from the recording.

This leads to even more resentment from the singer to the drummer as it is the singer’s song. The drummer is refusing to accept responsibility that he is under-rehearsed, blaming everyone else for his misfortune. He is arguing that the song was sped up in the studio and that we play it slower live. He is arguing that it is the professional kit and the unfamiliarity of it that is making him play sloppy. None of this sits well with us.

So when you add all of these little hurdles together, you can see that the studio environment starts to become resentful and argumentative.

And it’s funny that as soon as we start to work in a studio (regardless if it is a home studio or an external professional studio) certain band members start to become unavailable for the scheduled time slots. The vocalist can’t make his scheduled times because suddenly casual work or something else becomes a priority.

So here I am spending my time and money and no one is putting in the same effort.

So I start to become even more resentful at how unreasonable the others are.

However I still believe in what I am trying to achieve and I still have the confidence and the motivation to see it through. As my Dad would always say, “Nothing is easy in life”.

Risk is always part of the equation. Some pain right now will lead to a lot of gain afterwards. But in order to get the recording over the line someone has to take the lead, so I take control like how I have always done.

So I begin to tell my band mates that their parts are not good enough. I make the drummer do take after take.

I re-do the bass lines with a pick as the bassist believes he is a finger style player. Like the drummer, the finger style bass lines work well live but sound sloppy in the studio. I get the singer to record line by line of the verses. In other words I become the control room dictator. The outputs eventually are good enough from all involved however getting to the end of the road meant a lot of road kill that would become hard to recover from.

I refuse to heel as I push for that finished product.

The problem of my ways is that I wanted it to be a band effort however I quickly learnt/realised that it was best to do it myself.

There was a producer for the recordings, however it was me that produced it and the producer was really an engineer. I am also the creator of the songs. Today there is no distinction between the roles. They are the same. In the studio I have at home, I am the creator, producer and engineer. I get what I want and I do a lot of trial and error.

No one said the music business was easy however being in a band and keeping a happy medium is tougher than doing it alone.

Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Stupidity Incorporated

Stupidity just doesn’t seem to go away these days. Last month the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) promoted it’s World Intellectual Property Day with a slogan from a Bob Marley and the Wailers song called “Get Up, Stand Up”. WIPO’s theme was “Get Up, Stand Up. For Music”.

Did you know that a judge ruled against Bob Marley’s heirs a few years who sought to regain control of Marley’s copyrights from Universal Music claiming that Marley wrote the song as a work made for hire and thus Universal could keep the copyright, and not give it back to the Marley Estate.

Now “work for hire” means that an artist was commissioned to write a song to the exact specifications of the record label. Wikipedia states “work for hire” in the following way;

A work made for hire is a work created by an employee as part of his or her job, or a work created on behalf of a client where all parties agree in writing to the WFH designation.

I can’t believe how a judge would seriously believe that the record label at the time “Island Records” would have given the song titles to Bob Marley and told him the theme of what the song should be about.

Anyone involved in music knows too well that is not the case for at all. “Get Up, Stand Up” was written after Marley toured Haiti and the poverty that he was confronted with in that country.

As the Techdirt article points out, you have an organisation so dumb and out of touch with culture that it using a song from an artist that has been hijacked by the corporations who push for stronger copyright enforcement.

As far as I’m concerned, Bob Marley’s copyright MUST be in the Public Domain upon death. The public is meant to be the beneficiaries here, not the heirs and not the record labels.

Which brings me to the “Stairway To Heaven” court case.

You see I am not a fan of the heirs of an artist inheriting the copyrights of the artist once they die and I am definitely not a fan of the heirs of an artist suing others for money. We can all hear that Jimmy Page lifted the riff from the Spirit track “Taurus” and to be honest made a better derivative version of the Spirit track. For whatever reasons Spirit guitarist Randy California was cool with it and nothing happened. However the heirs are now challenging that.

What a sad state it is when a court has to decide on this and whichever way the court rules, the court is putting out the idea that one track is so original and the other is not. As a musician, trust me when I say that no song or riff is created in a vacuum. Each piece of music that comes out is a sum of our influences.

One final thing to add to my rant. When can the artists get it right when it comes to the music industry and recording industry references. Check out this quote from Ron Bumblefoot, the current guitarist in Guns N’ Roses.

”The music industry started to see their customers as their enemies and everybody suffered for it. Congratulations record industry – you’ve made a mess and you still don’t know how to clean it up.”

I always state over and over again, that the music industry is not the recording industry. They are two different entities. You see, the music industry didn’t see their customers as enemies, nor did they sue them, it was the recording industry that did that.

A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Submersed Compendium

The potential of Submersed achieving greater success was there. You see once upon a time bands struggled for years building up a local following and then a statewide following and then a tri-state following and so forth. However MTV changed all that. MTV made acts into global superstars in an instant. Some of those acts deserved it and a lot of others didn’t. So by the time Submersed came to fruition, they came to exist in a world post MTV.

A “Song Ideas” CD found its way into the hands of Mark Tremonti who was so impressed with what he heard he ended up championing them to Wind Up Records.

The debut album eventually came out in 2004 three years after the band actually formed. The title changed from “All Things Becoming of the End” to “In Due Time” and the track list also changed.

Mark Tremonti produced the first version of the album and Creed drummer Scott Phillips also performed. Then Tremonti went out with Creed on the “Weathered” tour, so Don Gilmore was brought in to produce the newer album cuts and future Tremonti drummer, Garret Whitlock was them behind the drum stool at this stage.

You Run
It’s the best song from the debut album and it was the song that hooked me in. It’s also one of their earliest. It was on the original track listing of the album when it was called “All Things Becoming Of The End” so it has stood the test of time.

“You Run” is written by a songwriting committee of vocalist Donald Carpenter, guitarists, TJ Davis and Eric Friedman, bassist Kelan Luker, producer Don Gilmore and original guitarist Aaron Young.

Since the album was done in two stages, this song is actually produced by Don Gilmore and drums are played by future Tremonti drummer Garrett Whitlock.

Many debts I cannot repay
Too many clouds in my sky today
I trust in you

And then there are other songs from the debut that have some killer sections in them.

That Euro metal section from about 2.40 to 3.00 is sublime. Brilliant.

In Due Time
That whole outro with the lead guitar line and the vocals singing, “Let me go, never wanna be this, never wanna be this” is brilliant.

The vocal melody in the verses. What a hook?

Divide The Hate
That middle-eastern Phrygian Dominant sounding intro is just too good to be wasted in a song that has an uninspired Chorus.

That U2 inspired section from the 3 minute mark is brilliant. When the shred comes in at 3.30 it’s totally unexpected and a WOW moment in the song.

The first album moved over 100,000 copies.

Then the two year process started to write the follow-up.

Producer Rick Beato was on board and guitarist Eric Friedman was out. The album eventually came out in September 18 2007.  Donald Carpenter said the following in an interview on the Rock On Request website.

I think definitely we would have loved to have had more of a luxury just to write more rock, rock, rock songs and make it work. I think on this record we stuck more to just trying to write great songs, whatever songs could give us a career and give us success. We always felt like we could go heavier as our career went on, once we could establish ourselves. That was the main thing. We felt like we had a nice record where we could establish ourselves the first go around, but things just didn’t really line up the right way. We definitely keep it in mind and it’s something that we hope to maybe go a little bit closer towards, making a whole record that’s more like our live show.

Immortal Verses became the final album from Submersed. The constraint and the pressures to be commercially successful proved too much of a burden to bear.

An Artists Prayer
A great ballad written by Donald Carpenter.

Maybe in the answers,
Of those same questions
Were right in front of us all along
Written in riddles,
Timeless prayers,
Hidden in lines of timeless songs

Sometimes what you are looking for is right in front of us. We just need to find a way to see it.

Sarah and Johnny
Another good rocker written by T.J. Davis, Kelan Luker, Garrett Whitlock and Eric Friedman.

He sat all night,
Trying not to cry
His future heart seen
Should he stay,
With his family
Their hearts too strong to let him go,
Makin’ it to hard to leave
A better world
To chase a dream

The life of a rocker once the family comes into the picture is all about making hard choices. Do you chase a dream or stay in the world that is really hard to leave?

At First Sight
The big arena power ballad and if this was released twenty years before, it would have been a smash and on every wedding playlist. It’s written by Donald Carpenter and Eric Friedman.

All of the best songs on album are buried towards the end and if you got through the generic sounding first 5 songs, you will be enthralled. This song is written by Donald Carpenter, producer Rick Beato and Marc Tompkins .

Once I listened to the album a few more times, more songs started to stand out.

Better Think Again
It’s written by Donald Carpenter, Rick Beato and Marc Tompkins. It was also the first single from the album.

It’s heavy and to me it deals with Carpenter’s feelings in navigating the music industry. We are all dreamers. The previous band I was in, the members all believed that if we got signed, things would take off right away and that we would be rich and famous.

But nothing is easy in music and nothing happens overnight. A music career takes time and a lot of years to gain fans. Being a musician equates to a lot of unfruitful work as the time spent doing things doesn’t equal a wage.

Then you get signed and that advance ends up being a loan with a slim chance to pay off. In the process, the label ends up owning you. And that is the catch-cry of the song, “You better think again”.

Price Of Fame
It’s written by Donald Carpenter. To be honest, anytime I see the words “The Price” in a song, I think of Dee Snider, Twisted Sister and the song “The Price”.

When I think of how cheap,
The price of fame has become
Is it all worth it
To try and be number one

It says it all. Like the same price that Dee Snider had to pay by being away from his family, Donald Carpenter is paying the same price.

Over Now
Another composition from Donald Carpenter and Rick Beato

It’s over now

When you think of how it ended this song might have been packaged as a relationship song, however it could have been about the industry.

Then abruptly there was a post on Submersed’s MySpace page (remember MySpace) that stated the band parted ways with certain members and they would be dropped from Wind Up Records. On Wikipedia you can see the blog entry written by Donald Carpenter:

I know that all of you are wondering, what happened to Submersed? Well, the answers is… A lot.. This business and struggle to make it took its toll on the members… Two weeks before “Price of Fame” was slated for release, Tj, Kelan and Justin decided to move on with their lives and left SubmerseD. Garrett and I believing in “Price of Fame” made the choice to press on and see what could happen. Well, nothing happened… the single never had a chance… mind bottling… The fact is, is that a majority of our fanbase is unaccounted for due to Burning, making it impossible for the labels to understand just how many people really support us out there… When it comes down to it now, SubmerseD no longer has a place on Windup’s roster and will be dropped shortly… I was trying to wait until things were a little more official before an announcement but you guys and gals are smart and I felt you deserved an explanation now rather than later.

The band had an audience however the record label didn’t know how to quantify it. The band didn’t know how to quantify it, believing that once they got signed, world stardom would be at their door.

That same problem still exists today. The majority of bands/artists still believe that a record label would bring about untold riches.

The record labels are still pushing out that old model focused on “CREATING A SALE”.

The world today demands that acts and the labels that support the acts “CREATE A CUSTOMER/FAN”. The model is not top down anymore, its reversed. It’s from the bottom up. We are looking for experiences that enhance our lives and not for block buster campaigns.

Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The World We Live In

I am over it.

I am over people like APRA/AMCOS CEO Brett Cottle calling on the Australian Parliament to offer legislative support to members of the creative industries.

I know from my own experiences APRA has been negligent for accepting dual song writing registrations on songs that I wrote and registered with them over ten years ago. They had the balls to call me up to ask me if I am okay with their negligence for accepting dual registrations and if I’m not okay with it, they can offer mediation to me to sort it out with the other party at a cost to be paid by me.

Yep, that sure sounds like a lot of support and respect from APRA/AMCOS towards the artists it is meant to represent. The truth of the matter is this.

Small time musicians don’t mean crap to these large organisations. All we do is generate a lot of money for them by playing live and by using our hard-earned monies to promote ourselves and get our songs on radio. Yep, APRA as a publishing and collection association collect those radio royalties (that we as artists worker our backsides off to get on radio) and those live returns from Club owners on our behalf.

They then hold the pool of monies for as long as they can before paying anything out to the artists based on a formula that no one can make sense off. That way APRA can double dip on the pool of money. They do that by earning interest on the large pool first and then they take out their admin fee.

So I am sick and tired at corporate entities that put out crap saying they are concerned about the artists. The music business and the movie business have consistently opted for legislation to combat piracy and when it comes to innovation they are continually dragged kicking and screaming into it.

The major record labels in the U.S killed off the 20 million strong membership of Grooveshark as it wasn’t legit enough for the record labels. Well guess what happened the next day. It was cloned and made available for users to stream music on.

Can we also make the distinction between the recording industry and the music industry?

They are two different categories. The recording industry is part of the music industry. The music industry at a high level also contains the live industry, the merchandise industry, the publishing companies, the collection agencies, the local clubs, etc..

So when I see people saying that the music industry cannot compete with piracy, it is totally a clueless and dumb statement to make.

I don’t see the live industry complaining because of piracy. I don’t see the merchandise industry complaining because of piracy.

Piracy is a recording industry problem. Actually I still find it hard to hear when people in the recording industry still complain about competing with piracy or pirates. People just don’t get it. The recording industry (and by default they acts on their roster) are competing against other products for fans/customers. It has been proven time and time again that if the customer sees value in the offering, they will pay for it.

There is a lot of money in the industry right now. “Blurred Lines” is just one song and it took in over 17 million dollars since 2013.

When it comes to music, I stream via Spotify for free and I buy physical CD’s from Amazon in the U.S or from the band direct. I never got into paying $1.29 or $2.19 for a digital mp3 of the song. However I do have a lot of mp3’s. When you buy pre-release albums from bands directly or via a fan funding campaign, you always get an mp3 version of the album. Amazon offers Auto-Rip and then there is the CD’s I purchased which I rip and put on my iPhone.

While ripping a CD is acceptable to an MP3 file is acceptable in the recording industry, the DVD I purchase is not allowed to be format shifted to an AVI file.

Torrentfreak is a website that I got to regularly to keep up to date on the latest issues around Copyright issues. So it’s no surprise to see that the MPAA is putting their hands in foreign policies. In this case, it was lobbying hard the UK Cameron government to not legalize DVD ripping. However the lobbying efforts didn’t pay off and the private copying exceptions became law in October last year.

Speaking of the MPAA, they are sure doing their best to keep their business model flourishing. Thanks to the Sony email hacks, the world know has official proof that the MPAA are offering grants to academics to write pro-copyright papers that can be used to influence future copyright policies.

As the article points this is nothing new for the MPAA.

Last November we revealed that the MPAA had donated over a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon University in support of its piracy research program. Thus far the Carnegie Mellon team has published a few papers. Among other things the researchers found that the Megaupload shutdown worked, that piracy mostly hurts revenues, and that censoring search engine results can diminish piracy. As expected, these results are now used by the MPAA as a lobbying tool to sway politicians and influence public policy.

So how is Brett Cottle from APRA/AMCOS or those stooges at Village Roadshow any different to the MPAA? All of these organisations profit from the creative works of others however they contribute nothing creatively.

In the end if copyright becomes too extreme, creativity will die.

Thank god in heavy metal and hard rock some common sense is prevailing when we hear similarities between songs. So far we haven’t had the court cases like “Blurred Lines” or the out of court settlements between Sam Smith and Tom Petty for the “Stay With Me” and “I Won’t Back Down” vocal similarities or the other out of court settlement between the song writing committee for Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” and The Gap Band’s 1970s funk hit “Oops Upside Your Head.”

Music survives because the creators are constantly borrowing, sharing, and reacting to the different connections the 12 notes in the musical scale offer.

“The Ultimate Sin” is a forgotten song in Ozzy’s solo career (even though Jake E.Lee does perform it with Red Dragon Cartel) and it was good to hear part of the vocal melody get resurrected by Five Finger Death Punch in “Life Me Up”. Yes, they are similar for those small sections and if anything fair use is the order of the day.

Hell, we all know that Avenged Sevenfold’s latest album “Hail To The King” references a lot of great metal albums from the past. What about Kingdom Come’s “Get In On” and it’s references to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. As I have always said, music is derivative.

It’s getting ridiculous how everyone is slapping copyright lawsuits on everything and the reason why that is occurring is that corporations own the copyrights. Hell, even George Clinton who has been sampled by every hip hop artist known, is fighting Bridgeport Music (a publishing company) to get his rights back. Basically at this point in time, George Clinton has NO royalty rights.

Yep, the person who copyright is designed to protect and the person who actually created the music has NO royalty rights to his music. And of course, in case you didn’t know Bridgeport Music was also one of the plaintiffs in the “Blurred Lines” copyright case.

But hey, Bridgeport Music, like APRA/AMCOS would lead you to believe that they are pushing copyright agendas for the artists and that stronger copyright is needed to combat piracy. On the other side of the fence you have a housewife from the fifties who wrote the lyrics for a song called “G.I. Blues” which was later turned into a hit song for Elvis Presley who is not credited as a songwriter because she didn’t pay the $25 copyright fee back in the sixties.

But, wait, according to the corporations who own the copyrights, the world needs longer copyright terms and stronger enforcement rights.

That’s the world we live in.

A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

Time Is Your Greatest Friend

The recording industry is a mess, known for its creative accounting, manipulative one-sided contracts, it’s lobbying efforts to enact favourable laws that benefit the executives and do nothing for the artists and it’s monopolistic control over any new technologies that seek to bring a certain value to the consumer of recorded music.

Streaming service Grooveshark is no more.

The service had over twenty million users. Surely that is ample proof to the record labels that there is a large market for a service/product to offer what Grooveshark offered. However, the record labels have the dollars and the power behind them and any legal war of attrition will end in a record label victory.

Grooveshark’s sin was that they didn’t license the music on the service from the record labels. All the music was uploaded to Grooveshark by its “users”.

Grooveshark contended that if they paid royalties for the plays on the service they would be legit. However, the labels wanted Grooveshark to also pay for the licenses to have the “user uploaded” music on the service. On paying royalties, Grooveshark was also hit and miss, playing the same record label games against them.

But in all honesty, paying royalties is a contested issue. There is no transparency around it so the system is open to abuse.

Nick Menza (former Megadeth drummer) is complaining on social media that Dave Mustaine is ripping him off when it comes to his publishing royalty payments.

Add to that the unsignable contract that Menza (like Bill Ward and Dave Lombardo before him) were given and you can see that when money clashes with art, you have winners and losers on many different sides.

You have winners and losers between the executives and artists. You have winners and losers between the managers and artists. Finally you have winners and losers between the individual artists themselves and it all cases the main creative force is the winner.

If you want an example of the discontent, look no further than the guitar riff in “Every Breath You Take” from The Police.

That riff has been sampled in a lot of pop and rap songs. All of the monies earned from those samples goes to Sting as the sole songwriter and not to Andy Summers as the creator of the riff.

You see, Sting wrote the vocal melody and played the chords on a keyboard. That demo version of the song was then worked on by the whole band to get it to the level that we know today.

That iconic guitar riff follows the keyboard chords that Sting laid down.

A, F#m, D and E.

However the way Andy Summers chose to play it by adding the ninth note of each chord is iconic and innovative. That extra tone and the palm muted arpeggios tweaked the simple chord progression into an Aadd9, F#madd9, Dadd9 and Eadd9 chord progression. But Sting is the songwriter and he gets all the royalties for when that riff is sampled.

Sales of recorded music always goes to the record label and very rarely back to the artist.  So why are artist complaining about copyright infringement.

Monies for the artist come from other opportunities like licensing out music for advertisements of products. Australian band Tame Impala has made nothing from overseas sales however the monies they received from licensing out a song to Blackberry and to a Tequila maker ended up allowing the songwriter to buy a house and set up a studio.

As Kevin Parker from Tame Impala put’s it;

“I know what you’re thinking… “wait so…when I bought an album I was helping some businessman pay for his mansion on an island somewhere, and when some dude bought a mobile phone he was helping to pay an artist? WHHHYY?” I’ll tell you why, IT’S MONEY. It doesn’t always go where you want it to go.”

And the best take away from that Reddit session is the following;

“As far as I’m concerned the best thing you can do for an artist is LISTEN to the music…fall in love with it…….talk about it”.

The above sentiments are a far cry from what the classic rockers are talking about.

Roger Waters is angry at the techies for creating tools that facilitate “stealing” and he is angry with the “whole generation that’s grown up who believe that music should be free.”

I enjoy Pink Floyd. I like Roger Waters while he was in Pink Floyd.

I picked up Pink Floyd’s seventies output on LP from a second-hand record store (which meant that I picked up someone’s unwanted Pink Floyd records) in the Nineties and the only Pink Floyd CD that I own is “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” which I picked up from a discount bin.

Man reading his rant, he comes across as not sure if he should love his fans or hate them, because in the end it is the fans who love everything that he has recorded and spend $200 plus on a concert ticket that are downloading his songs. Not the tech companies. So which way does Waters want it.

Change is forever. Every other business can embrace change and move on however the recording industry is still fighting it. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Roger Waters, Joe Perry and others all state that they are thankful they came out in a different time. Illegal copyright infringement is a record label problem, not an artist problem.

It’s actually one of the best times to be involved in the music business. The barriers of entry are low and recording technologies are affordable. You can physically create and distribute your music without a record label and do it for almost zero dollars. However, 99% of artists would still look for a record deal and then complain against the techies when the labels don’t hand over some of that streaming money that they have collected twice, once in licensing and then again in royalty payments for the listens.

The recording industry thrives in making their world look difficult and important. They will use trumped-up numbers of job losses, creative accounting charts and blame everyone else for the reasons why the artist is not getting paid. And the stupid thing is that the artists would sign up again for another term with the label with poor royalty returns.

The music business is not rocket science. Like any form of outlet there are some golden rules and the main one is to keep a decent cash balance.

So, yes that means the artist needs to work.

George Lynch had a record deal with Elektra and was driving trucks during this period just before Dokken broke through with the “Tooth N Nail” album.

Dee Snider worked many jobs while Twisted Sister was establishing itself as a serious live band.

Even Gene Simmons had a decent cash flow happening in the early days of Kiss. If you don’t believe me, then read “Face The Music” from Paul Stanley.

Music is an investment for the long-term that involves winners, losers and more importantly re-investment back into your career.

Time is your greatest friend.

Remember that.